The internet seems so big but it’s easy to find your tribe and if you speak up for what you believe in, your tribe will find you.
I met Carleeh a few years ago online. Jesus. Fitness. It was a match. We then met in 2015 in person at Blog Fest (can you tell Blog Fest is a GREAT place to be?) Carleeh is passionate, outgoing and holds true to what she believes.
Here’s her story:
Maybe I got the easy life as a child, maybe I was blessed to be brought up in a home with no alcohol, swearing, or fear. Sometimes I ask myself if God gave it to me early because he knew I would need it to hold onto as an adult.
I was the pastor’s daughter, but I was never miss goodie two shoes. I always pushed the envelope and argued. I loved a good debate about pretty much anything. It was a running joke in my house that I would be a lawyer when I grew up. It wasn’t that I wanted to be opinionated. It is that I wanted a voice, a say, to matter enough to be listened to.
I always felt called to speak up. Maybe it was from watching my dad bring with the broken and helping get them on their feet that I developed a love for the hurting. I spent years trying to live like Jesus to love others, by loving the people that seemed unloved. It was modeled for me by two amazing parents that lived everyday for the Lord. Serving God was all my heart desired. Until one day it wasn’t.
Fast forward to my teens, death became me, all around me, and eventually, I died to Christ. I started living for the party and to heal the pain of losing those I loved. After my two best friends died in a car accident when I was 16, my heart closed off. There were many years of feeling unwanted and unloved, but chasing the filling to a God shaped hole in my heart. I started letting myself go down paths that led to choices that took his (holy spirit) voice out of me. I got lost in the fog of years of drug and alcohol abuse, and I gave away the only thing that was precious and mine. I was left with a gapping hole of loneliness and ending it all seemed like the best way I could stop it. It wasn’t until I was slapped multiple times in the face by my scared friend screaming to wake me up that I actually saw clear. Finally I reached for help. It flew me 3000 miles away to the where the sun kissed my pale PNW skin. The new- new Army wife, mother of two, full time manager of my family’s coffee shop, and living the life, and the party was always at our house.
They were the best years, until they weren’t.
10 years and 5 tours later, one day he came home and I didn’t recognize him. He didn’t recognize himself either, but he tried to find himself at the bottom of every bottle after the invasion. Four letters became his identity: PTSD. We had no one, I had no one. I internalized every hardship, all of his self medicating coping mechanisms. The Army called. I was forced to leave the only support system I had and go alone.
I had to be strong, for him and my kids. My voice had to become loud, to keep the stigmas away. I had to stand up to others, to him, and for myself. Eventually, it got sick of being loud, so I went silent. I had no one, not even him. Loneliness, more death, another baby, a medical board, and now we had to take on civilian life. I was 70 lbs overweight and a shell.
My fitness journey started here. I would love to tell you it was because I wanted to be healthy. Truthfully, it was because I hated myself, my body and I wanted to control whatever I could. I started seeing myself as worthless and out of control. But I was going home to where the rain could hide my tears.
Have you ever felt like you were drowning in your own hardships? That life just kept dealing you a bad card, then a good card, another bad card, and you are bluffing your way through a bad hand? The only good thing about hard knocks are when we decide to seek strength in God and get back up every time we fall. I got me some bruises, but I never give up.
I did the one thing I had never done. I picked up the Word and never put it down. Five years and counting, life has changed because of my faithfulness. There are still hard times, but they are met with grace and folded hands. My ancient wounds have bend bound up, and beauty is coming from what once was ashes of a broken life. Marriage is hard, “adulting” is hard, gossip is hard, parenting teens is so hard. PRAY HARDER.
When my faith was restored, I was given a mission, I was called to lead women, to show them where there strength comes from. My path hasn’t been easy, and it still isn’t today, but I am ALIVE. Death still follows me, struggles still arise, but I am stronger, my God is stronger. I speak up for myself and others.
Maybe fitness doesn’t seem like a battle field, but women do war on themselves and others, trying to fit a mold of perfection. The devil is prowling to destroy women from inside out; blow after blow against their bodies and minds. That’s where I refuse to be quiet. Through my own personal health and fitness journey, I share the Truth, in every way. I spent too long hurting myself and I don’t mind sharing my struggle if it helps another woman join in my “never give up” mission. I use my spaces to encourage and empower women, I have plenty of sisters who are willing to go to fight side by side with me. When I pray for the women who need to see themselves as his treasured child,
“Lord, send me, I’ll go.”
Photos by Jenna Lynn Photography